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Outlines: The Latest Step Toward a Unified Aesthetic

July 11, 2013

by Gemlocker


Crossroads Bridge with outlinesMany video games and software-based tools have a unified aesthetic. Not only is it visually pleasing, it’s a useful means of distinguishing a product. In ROBLOX, that unified aesthetic can go missing – while everything is built from the same set of primitives and blocks of terrain, there are stark differences in what you see from one game to the next. We want our platform to have a look that speaks to our vision and screams ROBLOX, while still scaling to a wide range of hardware and giving you complete creative freedom to express your own vision. Today, we took another step toward that goal by enabling outlines on ROBLOX parts.

Outlines are a very experimental feature and, accordingly, we’ve enabled them in a very subtle way – thin, light and drawn only in close proximity. In some cases, they’re hardly noticeable; in others, their light touch blends with dynamic lighting and our material shading for a dramatic effect. We believe, across the board, they contribute to a look that ROBLOX can call its own.

Our builders and game developers have unique building styles and techniques. We captured several existing ROBLOX levels after enabling outlines to demonstrate their effects – and how they apply to everything from terrain and simple builds to extremely intricate CFramed worlds. Click each image to view it at full size.

Terrain with outlines

Outlines only apply to terrain on sharp edges and material transitions (not every block).

Crossroads Bridge with outlines

You really see the effect on the Crossroads bridge.

School bus with outlines

A blend of parts and terrain. You can see the bus is not a static model, but the sum of many parts.

Temple of the Sea with outlines

Outlines in the Temple of the Sea put the sheer number of parts in perspective, enhancing the beauty.


The Wind with Outlines

Outlines in The Wind are particularly noticeable on the individual wood blocks.

Why outlines?

While we were inspired at the highest level by the look of 3D editors and CAD systems, outlines work for ROBLOX for a few specific reasons.

  1. Precision. The core of ROBLOX is content creation. Outlines give you a sense of precision when building – you can be sure you’re accurate when manipulating parts.
  2. Inner structure. Everything on ROBLOX is comprised of real, physically simulated primitives (excluding terrain), largely placed by hand. Outlines communicate the complexity and inner-workings of the environments and models you build.
  3. Aesthetics. What you see in ROBLOX is identifiable as ROBLOX. Plus, outlines are smooth (i.e., antialiased) and a scalable alternative to bevels.

We developed the technology behind outlines in such a way that it is not a performance burden on desktop or mobile hardware. However, please note that the update will not be visible in ROBLOX Mobile until the next update ships, which should happen in the next week.

We believe this is the right direction for ROBLOX, but what you see today is by no means the final implementation of outlines. To get there, we need your feedback. How do you think outlines affect the visual presentation of ROBLOX?

You can let us know your thoughts in the comments of this article or by posting to the Suggestions & Ideas section of the forums.